I’ll Be Watching You

According to the Northeastern Intelligence Network, the government’s concern about “increased right wing activity” may have gone far beyond the simple aspersions cast by the recent DHS report:

According to this unimpeachable source, a single-page confidential directive issued by the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC (FBIHQ) was sent to each of the 56 field offices located across the United States on or about March 23, 2009, instructing the Special Agents in Charge (SACs) of those offices to verify the date, time and location of each TEA Party within their region and supply that information to FBI headquarters in Washington. The source stated this correspondence termed the TEA parties “political demonstrations,” and added that the dissemination of the directive was very tightly controlled. “Not all agents were privy to this correspondence,” stated the source, who compared the dissemination to an older “Do Not File” classification.

In addition to obtaining or confirming the location and time of each “demonstration,” each field office was instructed to obtain or confirm the identity of the individual(s) involved in the actual planning and coordination of the event in each specific region, and include the local or regional Internet web

site address, if any.  The information collected by region was then reportedly sent to FBI Headquarters.

The source alleges that a second directive was issued on or about  April 6,  2009 that reportedly instructed each SAC to coordinate and conduct, either at the field office level and/or with the appropriate resident agency, covert video surveillance and data collection of the participants of the TEA parties.  Surveillance was to be performed from “discreet fixed or mobile positions” and was to be performed “independently and outside of the purview of local law enforcement.”

If true (and given the government’s paranoia on the subject of late), this is a chilling threat to free speech and expression. I certainly understand the government keeping an eye out for potential ideological terrorists of all stripes, but targeting rallies as a potential staging ground for domestic terrorist activity is absurd, be it a Tea Party rally or one for the Wobblies. When governments are found to be spying on citizens in the course of exercising their fundamental right to free speech, this can have nothing but a chilling effect. The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, but never in a way that encroaches upon their rights. (And yes, to me this includes wiretapping without a warrant and the monitoring of library materials)

Governments should feat their citizens–not the other way around.

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